Friday, July 31, 2009

MONKEY FIST BLOG TOUR

My virtual pen is ready and my virtual decorations are all in place. But the smile is real and the books are very real too.

Tomorrow it all begins. Join me at Dee Scribe Writing where Dee White, author of the recently released YA novel, Letters to Leonardo will be interviewing the narrator Niya Moto of Monkey Fist to find out what it’s really like to be a Samurai Kid.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

SANDY WRITES

Sandy writes. And sometimes she rewrites. Which is what I am doing now. My editor and I have had a big talk, talk, talk about Mexica Runner (due for release March 2010) and I am loving the new ideas that came out of our discussion. Chronology has been an issue. I began Mexica Runner in 2007 immediately after Polar Boy. When Samurai Kids evolved into a series, I put Mexica Runner aside to write Owl Ninja (book 2). That was a long time ago - two more books and one and a half manuscripts ago. My writing has grown with practice and experience. Some of the imagery and phraseology has accidentally seeped into subsequent Samurai kids books and needs to be removed. What was once unique is now a little too much like the voice of another charcater. There's bit of work to be done but every new idea I touch flows perfectly. So I can feel the rightness of these changes.

I'm loving this rewrite.

Monday, July 27, 2009

MONKEY FIST BLOG TOUR - the schedule

The countdown is coming to an end. Saturday 1st August Monkey Fist arrives. My tour is booked. My bag is packed (I've hardly had to take a thing) and my accommodation in place (my friends are generous hosts) - I'm ready to roll.

Here's the tour stops if you want to come along with me:

Saturday 1/8/09
Dee Scribe Writing –Dee White, author of the recently released YA novel, Letters to Leonardo will be interviewing the narrator Niya Moto to find out what it’s really like to be a Samurai Kid
Sunday 2/8/09
Orangedale Journal – Dale Harcombe, poet and children’s author (latest release The Mystery of Goanna Island) will be interviewing me about writing Samurai Kids
Monday 3/8/09
Lets’ Have Words – I will be visiting Claire Saxby, children’s author (latest release Sheep, Goat and the creaking gate August 2009) to talk about the unique challenge in writing a historical novel about a group of children with disabilities
Tuesday 4/8/09
Spinning Pearls – I will be visiting author and manuscript assessor Sally Odgers (too many books to name but the Jack Russell Dog detective series and the e-Manual (Giving our Kids) A Reason to Write are just two examples) to discuss ‘the hour of the rat’ and how I get to Japan and China inside my head
Wednesday 5/8/09
Tales I Tell – Storyteller and author Mabel Kaplan interviews me about how my interest in Japanese and Chinese history has influenced the series. Mabel uncovers the meaning of Monkey Fist.
Thursday 6/8/09
Sally Murphy’s Writing For Children Blog – I will be visiting Sally Murphy (author of many books for children including the verse novel, Pearl Verses the World) to talk about book promotion and how to harness cyber resources.
Friday 7/8/09
Writing Children’s Book with Robyn Opie – I will be visiting Robyn Opie, author of more than 75 books including "How to Write a Great Children's Book" and the novel “Black Baron”. I will be discussing Zen and the Art of Writing for Children – my view on why the series has been so successful.
Saturday 8/8/09
Alphabet Soup – Magazine editor Rebecca Newman will be interviewing me about my research techniques and asking questions to discover whether all that historical research is really any fun
Sunday 9/8/09
The Book Chook – Writer, reviewer and children’s literature advocate Sue Stephenson will be interviewing me about how my children’s reading experiences have influenced my writing
Monday 10/08/09
Words and Pictures – Writer and artist Jefferey E Doherty will be interviewing me about writing illustrated novels – the artwork, graphics and working with an illustrator

BOOK WEEK RESOURCES - Mrs B's Interactive Literacy Website

Lately I've been finding lots of wonderful new websites. So I thought I would share them around. The best websites are often found by pure chance (Stumble Upon is so well named!). And so it was that a casual tweet mentioning my recently completed Polar Boy Teacher's Resource Kit led me to Mrs B's Interactive Literacy. It's the Internet home of Irene Buckler who confided she had been a teacher for many years and did I think it showed? Yes it does. Irene is clever, talented, passionate about Australian literature and knows just how to present it to kids. I'm shouting it out to the world becuase this is a site worth a vist. You will find all sorts of resources and activities promoting this year's CBCA shortlisted books. Of course, I am incredibly biased towards the Polar Boy jigsaw. I have been a jigsaw enthusiast for as long as I've loved books. But there's lotsof other fun in this imaginary classroom. I played spelling word hangman, built an imaginary snowman (Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle by Glenda Millard) and brushed up on my knowledge about red foxes (Nobody Owns the Moon by Tohby Riddle). I'm really interested in red foxes at the moment as there' s one in the next Samurai Kids book.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

SAMURAI KIDS in a spin

Now that I'm an expert at embedding YouTube videos here's another one I found. I recognised the book immediately *grin* And no I didn't make this. A much more clever 18-year-old called JSJCB did (according to the profile):

Friday, July 24, 2009

BOOK WEEK - CBCA on YOUTUBE

Ive always wanted to try embedding a YouTube video into my blog. All I needed was a good excuse. I do have a video of me talking and you can find that here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7IUCoRjguU but I needed a better excuse than that.

And here it finally is. The excuse I've been waitng for. Drum roll... The Children's Book Council promotes Book Week by going on a YouTube Book Safari:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

SANDY WRITES


Sometimes Sandy writes and then sometimes she doesn't. Sometimes she plays around creating teaching resources to go with her books. You can download a Teacher's Resource Kit for Polar Boy including Interactive Whiteboard activities here.


The pictures here are sample screens from the Build an Igloo Quiz. A question is asked about Polar Boy (page number hints provided). Each correct answer results in a brick being added to the igloo. The wonderful artwork is the creative talent of Jeffery E Doherty of Words and Pictures.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A New Look For Me

I've never been one to splash my mug shot around (one look and you will see why *grin*) but... I never had one that looked like this before. One of the wonderful things that happened to me as a result of beginning to write was I connected with a huge pool of wonderful authors and illustrators, all passionate about children's literature. I made many new friends. And one of those was illustrator Sarah Davis, so talented she can make me look good. And also magically able to see inside my head and find all those Samurai Kids roaming about. A picture is worth a thousand words, which for me is about a third of a chapter. But this picture - worth a whole book. It makes me feel, and look, like an author. Thanks Sarah.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

OZ LIT REVIEW #11 - This is the Mud

This is the Mud by Kathryn Apel Illustrated by Wayne Crossett Hachette Children’s Books rrp $28.99 hardback, $16.99 softcover

Sometimes with a picture book, I find it hard to decide where to begin. Do I talk text or illustration? Do I tell the story? With This is the Mud, the answer is obvious. I start right at the front, with the cover and its quirky bottom-first view of the sad, soulful cow stuck in the mud. It’s an image to make the reader smile and promises a fun, mud-spattering read.

Based on the familiar, thumping rhythm of The House that Jack Built, This is the Mud is a text that demands to be read aloud. With pomp and emphasis! With oomph, emotion and expression! I had a stirring time doing exactly that.

The is the cow who was chewing her cud,
as she went for a drink and got stuck in the mud.


The story is a universal one. The cow rescued by a team of people – the girl who raises the alarm, the dad, the neighbour with the tractor and the woman on the two-way radio. The farm could be anywhere but the occasional clue, such as ‘ute’ places it in rural Australia, a landscape author Kathryn Apel calls home.

Warren Crossett’s vivid pictures provide action, humour and confirmation that this is a picture book ‘proud to be Australian.’ The splodges of mud containing landscape reflections are an interesting graphic feature on some pages of text. My favourite illustration, other than the cover of course, is the poor cow unceremoniously and inelegantly plucked from the mud by a sling around her middle. Still, she was glad to be rescued and in the end is happily chewing her cud again.

This is the Mud is a wonderful read-aloud, rhyme-along, imagine-the-mess book. And it’s lots of fun.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

OZ LIT PROFILE #11 - Kathryn Apel

This weekend's OZ Lit Profile is debut picture book author Kathryn Apel. This is the Mud was published in May 2009 by Hachette Children's book. A primary school teacher who lives on a farm in Queensland, Kathryn knows all about cows and mud! To find out more about Kathryn (and to read some wonderful poetry by Kat and friends) visit the Kat's Whiskers blog.

But now over to the microphone and the interview chair:-

1 The last children's/YA book you read (fiction or non-fiction) 'Sixth Grade Style Queen (NOT!)' by Sherryl Clark. This was the first verse novel I've read (I've heard much about them in recent times) and I was amazed by the character and story development in such few words. And I loved the poetry - the preciseness of each word. It truly is a craft! I'm keen to read more. (Pearl and Ruby are next on my list, and then there's Farm Kid, and the list grows from there.)

2 If it wasn't an Oz title, then the last Oz title (It was)

3 Name one favourite book from your childhood Oops! I'm going to be very naughty and honest and say that I loved Enid Blyton - and now my son does too! In fact, my big rebellion in Yr 7 was to organise a 'sit in' protest when our school library banned Enid Blyton books. I took enough for my class to have one each (even the non-readers go into the act) and we sprawled over the library floor in the lunch break, proudly displaying our Enid Blytons. I don't know how much reading we got done, but I do know that the librarian wasn't very happy. (Heh! Nor was I!)

From my younger years, I must admit I liked 'Lennie the Lamb', one in an anthology of bedtime stories. I was thrilled to spot the book in a second-hand shop recently, so bought it for nostalgia. That cute little wayward lamb is still cheating the wolf of his lamb roast - and the wolf is STILL falling for the cheese trick...


4 Name one picture book that you love for the illustrations 'Edward the Emu.' The way that emu can look like so many other zoo animals - and yet still look like an emu... I think it's great! So amazingly realistic, right down to the chipped and peeling paint on the zoo fence. Many times I've reached out to touch it, expecting it to feel like it looks. (It hasn't yet.)

5 What is your personal favourite among the books you have authored/illustrated 'This is the Mud!' because it really has been a wonderful journey with so many special moments along the way - both in the shared family moments (it was my youngest son who chose it as my entry into the CYA competition - which set it on its path to publication) and in the production of the book. And it's pretty special because though it wasn't my first 'published' book, it was my first book accepted for publication. So a sentimental favourite.

It's also really wonderful to be standing at the other side knowing that every word in the book is mine, and everything I asked for is in the book. It's noticeably Australian - but totally FUN. Warren Crossett's illustrations are simply gorgeous, and they definitely delight kids, whilst subtly reflecting our Australian life.

I guess I hadn't expected to be quite this satisfied at the completion of the book, but 'This is the Mud!' does absolutely everything I'd ever hoped it would.

6 What book do you wish you had written - for love or money 'Are we there yet?' by Alison Lester. She has perfectly captured the journey and the family, and since we share the caravan lifestyle, and will likely visit many of the places she did... and because she writes like I think... well, I often do feel that she's telling my story. I also love the fact that no matter how many times you read it, there's always something new to discover. Especially when you read it with kids.

7 If you could be a character in a book, who (or what) would you be Hmmm... That's a really tricky question... Totally away from children's books, I'm thinking perhaps a Jane Austen heroine, because I love the flounces and frills of the era and would happily wear them myself (Yes please!) but I also enjoy Jane's satirical look at life and the strength in her heroines. You won't walk over them. So I'd have to say... Elizabeth Bennett.

8 Do you have a favourite quote - from a book or life in general! Anything. I always got a bit choked up when I read the 'The Lion Who Wanted to Love', by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowyez to my boys. I think it's got a great message, encouraging kids to be themselves - even if it means being different. And there most definitely can never be too much love and compassion in our world. Hmmm... Hunting the book out for the quote, and I see I still DO get choked up and goosebumpy.

'You've got to be strong to be different,
And when you've got love on your side
You've got the most valuable gift that there is,
We want you as King of our pride.'

Friday, July 17, 2009

SANDY A-TWITTER ABOUT PIR

My name was all over Twitter today. I was mentioned, referred to and retweeted. What did I do to deserve all this attention? Well, to be honest, I did nothing. I just pointed out Sally Murphy's excellent post A Layman's Guide to the Cheaper Books Debate. Simple, concise and straight forward. Sally makes this complex issue easy to understand. Click through and read it now. Please.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

SANDY WRITES

The conversation went like this: "When I was pretending to be an author today..." and I told the story. My much-loved friend, always brutally honest and tactless, rolled her eyes. "Give it a rest, Sandy, it's getting bit tired. You are an author. You've had lots of books published and you've got that award sticker thingy."

I've been thinking about her comment a lot because she's often right. And I think she is again. Why don't I feel like an author? Why do I hide behind throw away lines like 'when I was masquerading as an author.. "? I have seven trade and education books published, another one due out in 6 months, two more contracted and four more accepted. And yes, I have a CBCA shortlisting sticker. So what's my identity crisis all about?

Finding your author identity is a tricky business and one I've often heard my yet-to-be-published and newly-published friends talk about. For me it all began when I first realised I was an aspiring author. I never had a problem with the 'wannabe author' tag as I always knew 'you have to wannabe if you're gonnabe' And this became my mantra of sorts. But what was I? I wanted to be something that said I was professional about wanting to be an author. I was attending courses, workshopping and writing lots. But when I was at these seminars and conferences with the real authors, who was I?

Another friend, a much published author, helped me out. "You are a writer," she said. "A writer is a word craftsman who just hasn't been published yet." I doubt it's an official dictionary definition *grin* but it worked for me. I was a writer.

Then one day the call came. Walker Books Australia wanted to publish White Crane. In the two years between that call and publication I had lots of time to get used to my authorly skin. But I never did. And all of a sudden I was published with as my friend pointed out - books and a sticker. I think my problem was it all happened so fast. It's been less than 18 months since that first novel was published. I call myself the Cinderella author because it seems like someone has waved a wand over me. I joke and say I hope I don't turn back into a pumpkin in the middle of a school visit. But in truth, it does feel surreal.

And then there's this other problem - whenever I pick one of my books off the shelf - it doesn't read like a real author wrote it - it reads like I did.

It's been a month since that conversation and a transformation has been happening. I'm beginning to accept that I am an author. That the dream did come true. I've been doing a lot of school visits lately and that's helped me put it all into perspective because - when I stand in front of the class - I really do feel 100% author.

[Footnote: I picked the picture to load for this post from the White Crane launch files and then noticed what I had labelled it at the time: 'Author Impersonator' Ha! Karma.]

Monday, July 13, 2009

WHAT MY KIDS ARE READING

What My Children Are Reading is a meme hosted by The Well Read Child. It's a terrific idea about sharing what your kids are reading and a great way to get ideas from other bloggers for new books to read with your children. Your posts can be a list of books you're reading with your kids, books your kids are reading on their own, old favorites that get picked up again and again, summaries of your favorite books you love to read together, books you just started reading with your kids, etc.

#1 son is reading Meet the Aliensons: Freak Street by Knife and Packer. It's wonderful fun and that's no less than he would have expected as it was chosen for him by Ruth at The Children's Bookshop in Beecroft. Ever since I met Ruth at the launch of White Crane and she sent me home with two Beast Quest books as her recommendation, #1 son has regarded her as his personal book buyer. He often says to me "Ask Ruth. She knows what books I like." She does. And it only underlines the importance of specialist children's booksellers or sales staff with a background in children's books. To the buying parent these people are invaluable.


#2 son has just finished The Way of Shadows, the first book in the Night Angel fantasy trilogy by Brent Weeks. He gave it to me to read and then harrassed me until I did. "It's that good mum." He never says that about books. So I read it. It was that good. "The perfect killer has no friends, only targets." the by-line said. And I want to add a second one: "The perfect assassin has no targets, only deaders." Dark, gothic, chilling, engrossing. And the eerie thing was - it was exactly the sort of book I loved at his age. It had my two key teen book criteria - fantasy and thick. In those days I didn't get to the library that often but I had plenty of time to read. My mother didn't allow homework ('homework is set by teachers who don't do their job properly in the day', she said) - but then she didn't allow much at all. So books had to last. They had to take me away from everything. I'm hanging out until #2 son finishes #2 book.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Author Steals Books from Library

I can imagine the headline. And it gets worse. Author Steals Own Books from Library. Even worse than that. It was me.

I had a wonderful day on the Southern Highlands. First stop Robertson Primary School where the kids asked some really challenging questions and helped decide what colour Book 5 should be (a royal blue was the popular choice). Then it was on to Glenquarry Public School (who kindly provided a delicious morning tea and lunch - thank you!) along with Kangaloon Public School who dropped in to visit.

I did a K-2 session which was something new for me. The kids I spoke to were too young to read my books but eager to hear the stories and ask questions of a real author (which I did my best to impersonate!). One of my all-time favourite questions will always be this one from a Year 1 boy after a discussion about story-writing: Who marks your work?

Later I was talking with a group of primary school students about the characters in Samurai Kids. Yoshi is always a favourite. He's bigger than the others but refuses to fight because he once accidentally killed a boy in a wrestling match. Yoshi's spirit is the Tiger and he was the last of the Kids to find his Spirit. "Yoshi could also be a bee," suggested one boy. Did he mean because the bee is striped like the tiger? I wondered. "Yoshi is like the bee becuase if the bee stings it will die and if Yoshi fights it will hurt him a lot too." How wonderful!!! Everytime I speak to a group of kids I walk away thinking "I wish I had thought of that!"

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Do You Have to Start at Book 1?

I've always felt that any book in a series for children should stand alone and that particularly it should have a satisfying conclusion. Sometimes kids don't get to choose how quickly they read the next book or whether they can access it all. What if it's not in the library yet? What if no-one buys it for them?

So it goes to follow it probably doesn't matter too much if you read one out of order. Not that I would choose to but if it just happened that way, it wouldn't trouble me. That's adult think! It troubles kids a lot I discovered when I read Jayne Lyons wonderful 100% Wolf series to #2 son out of order. (Brief promo: this is werewolves and creatures of the night without the scary stuff. Perfect for younger readers who want the action and adventure of horror without the fear factor. Our hero sometimes has problems during his transwofation and turns into a pink poodle. Always at the most inappropriate moments).

I read the second book first - 100% Hero. It came to me via a friend who received it for review. (Great recommendation Barbara). It was great fun and #2 and I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I attempted to read Book 1 I was interrupted with - "but we already know this". I had overlooked a critical fact. While the story hadn't been told, it was already given away. I had to argue really hard- my best lawyer's defence ever - to be allowed to read 100% Wolf. I had to promise never to read books out of order again.

I'm often asked if it matters if a child reads a particular Samurai Kids book first. In the past I've said no. After all, each story is complete in itself. But from now on I'm going to answer differently. Start at book one otherwise they might never go back to the beginning.

Monday, July 6, 2009

MAILBOX MONDAY - Monkey Fist Arrives

In my mailbox - Samurai Kids Book 4 - the jade green one! And it's an appropriate colour because in Monkey Fist the Samurai Kids journey into the Forbidden City to rescue Kyoko.

Is it good manners to post a snippet from one's own book? Probably not but I'm much too excited to be worried about that today. Tomorrow maybe I'll feel a bit self-indulgent and guilty but today I just feel ecstatic.

Dark shapes cover my eyes. They stick their fingers in my ears and slap their ghostly gloves in my face. The White Crane screeches in fright.

Waking with a jolt from the nightmare, I can't see the shadows in my imagination any more. They are real now. Somewhere close by.

"Taji," I whisper.

No answer. That's not good. With ears like the Golden Bat, Taji should be awake.

Friday, July 3, 2009

BLOG TOUR #2 - Letters to Leonardo

Letters to Leonardo sat on my desk for a week. I wanted to read it in one long session not the snatches and patches that form my usual child-interrupted (Muuuuum), work-interrupted (ring, ring) reading pattern. I knew I had a long bus trip coming up, an hour each way, so I saved it for then.

It was hard putting it aside between arrival and departure but I was mentally prepared for that. Two chapters from the end as the bus began its windy descent down Macquarie Pass, my stomach overruled my head and I was forced to put my book away. I was not happy. I didn't get back to those last few chapters until 12 hours later. And boy was I glad it worked out that way after all. I am an avid reader who has reached the point where it's not often an ending totally surprises me. I usually pick up most of the clues and make good guesses. But this ending hit me with all the force of an armed ambush. Without giving anything thing away - it's incredibly confronting. But it's totally appropriate. Read it for yourself and see what I mean.

Today it is my pleasure to be a blogstop on Dee White's cyber tour and to interview both Dee and Matt, whose story Letters to Leonardo tells.

Now Matt, I happen to know you're artistic and talented - quite handy with a paintbrush and a spray can. Could you describe yourself, your dad and your mum in three words each. Me: introspective, artistic, serious. Dad: self-help guru (could I please have an extra word? Just used up all three in one go and I don’t want everyone to totally get the wrong idea. Dad’s okay really) He cares about me – and he’s mostly genuine – apart from that one huge lie he told me for the last ten years. And I guess that all this means that I need another word or two to describe me – a rule breaker.
Mum: talented, off centre, unpredictable

After all that has happened, do you trust your father? I’m learning to trust him again.

How has your recent experience affected your art? It’s added depth and layers. I used to think life was straightforward but now I realise there are so many colours and shades to everything.

Did you have any qualms about handing in the assignment or did you leave out the more personal letters? In the end, I thought what the heck – and handed them all over.

How do you feel about your mother now? I’m not really sure. She’s still my Mum. Do you want to see her again? Maybe one day, but not yet – not till I know I’ll be okay – that I’ll be strong enough to handle it.

Bi-polar disorder has a strong genetic association. Do you worry about that? It used to worry me, but the more I got to know about it the more I realised, I’m not like her. My reality is completely different from Mum’s.

Matt is an incredibly real character. I was intrigued to know where he came from. So I asked Dee a few questions too.

Do you know anyone who suffers from bi-polar disorder? Yes, a close relative of one of my best friends.

Are you, or is anyone you know, an artist? I think I have an artist’s soul and a writer’s hands. I can feel and visualise what I’d like to put on the canvas, but the brush seems to take me in a different direction. I guess I try and paint with words instead. I know a few really good artists, and I really admire what they do.

Is Matt based on, or partially based on, anyone you know? Matt is not really based on anyone – he’s a combination of people – I think his serious side and introspection probably comes from me.

How much of the narrative is based on real life incidences? Some of the incidences really happened, but sorry, I’m not going to tell you which ones.

Thanks for having us Sandy. We’ve enjoyed being here haven’t we Matt? (Picture Matt nodding). Matt is pretty shy, and was really worried about appearing in public on tour, but I think he recognises your artistic soul – and that you understand him and empathise with what he has gone through. (Matt nods again).

Can’t wait for you to visit my blog http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com in August Sandy with your new book Monkey Fist.
Bye for now.

Dee and Matt

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

SANDY WRITES

Recently I was in the Southern Highlands doing a few school visits (best fun ever, post and pictures to follow as soon as I work out my new camera and which photos it is OK to use), and I was asked the inevitable "where do you get your ideas from?" I love this question. Firstly because I can always count on it and in my school visit rookie days I clung to the knowledge that I was always prepared for at least two questions (the other being "what is your favourite book?" The answer being a sneak in of two titles - The Tales of Despereaux by Kate DiCAmillo and the Dragonkeeper series by Carole Wilkinson). I know many children are encouraged to ask about ideas but you can tell they want to anyway. And adults ask the same question. Especially aspiring authors because they hear publishers say all the time 'we are looking for a fresh voice and new ideas'. So they want to know where other authors found their ideas.

It always amazes me how 'new' (and that's a whole other discussion!) ideas can appear at the same time. There have been a number of samurai books of course but no series. At the time Samurai Kids was released, three more samurai series hit the shelves. They were all very different - one had a strong fantasy element, one was blockbuster action and one was more kung fu. Samurai Kids is something else again - adventure, history and humour - with just a dash of philosophy (Zen is both really funny and really clever. Kids get this combination straight away). So how did this coincidence happen? Perhaps there were samurai idea seeds in the wind, blowing all over the place. And that leads me to my theory that ideas are in the air everywhere but some people are more receptive to catching them just as some people are more likely to catch the common cold (the air is full of germs and ideas!!). Perhaps that's not as far fetched an analogy as it might sound. Once you catch a good idea - you live and breathe it every day.

Does it matter if an idea is not entirely unique? Not to me. I am a new author hopeful that readers who begin with one samurai series will enjoy it and look around for another. I hope they find my books next.

Sometimes ideas are right under my nose and I don't see them. Recently #2 son and I finished The Greatest Blogger in the World. Loved it. And what a brilliant idea - a kid and a blog. Very technology and communications current but very accessible to primary kids. And every young reader loves a text type twist. How many children's authors are blogging every day and missed the idea connection?

Sometimes I find my ideas are already taken. For years I have touched upon writing the story of The Highwayman - Alfred Noyes' wonderful ballad - crime, love, adventure, romanticism and tragedy. If you haven't read the poem, and even if you're not into poetry, click on the link becuase it's worth a look. I was flicking through a Walker Books catalogue recently and there it was - The Highwayman's Curse by Nicola Morgan, book 2 in a series already well under way! So I added it to my reading list and crossed it off my writing list

And just in case you would like to know where the idea for Samurai Kids came from. From my study of history, fascination with swords and love of eastern philosophy. But the feature which makes the series catch its readers' imaginations, that these are children with a disability, came out of the air. I know a number of children and adults who have lost limbs, who like Yoshi have struggled to overcome there fears or like Kyoko have lived with 'being different.' I am inspired by the way they barrel through life's challenges. And this is a strength and power innate in most kids. They do because no-one said they can't and it doesn't occur to them to question whether they can - or even should. And for those children who are more reticent or unsure then I hope that like me, they draw on the same inspiration.

Sometimes an idea isn't readily agreed upon. Especially if it is a little unusual. "You cannot put five disabled children together in a book," I was told. "Why not?" I asked. "it's not done." I thought it was a good idea. I felt I had created a gathering of strength and a band of potential heroes. Why couldn't they be samurai as much as any one else? Once you've found a good idea you have to believe in it and hold on tight so it doesn't vanish back into the air it came from.